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The Green Sheet Online Edition

March 10, 2014 • Issue 14:03:01

Bolster skills before you need them

By Jeff Fortney
Clearent LLC

I say it all the time: Do what you do well often. It's a simple reminder that in order to succeed we need to emphasize the skills that we do well, and deemphasize those that we don't do well.

Many take this statement to heart. They look for ways to fine tune their strengths. They look for ways to use these abilities in different ways within the payments industry. For example, those who are naturally empathetic have used this while listening to merchants. They can easily and sincerely reflect the merchant's concerns and offer a caring response.

Others have sound communication skills and translate these into newsletters, as well as clear, concise presentations.

Look at your weak areas

It only makes sense to use your talents to your benefit. But along with these skills, I bet your personal toolbox also includes a few tools or skills that you aren't necessarily comfortable with or knowledgeable about. There are also probably a few things lurking in your toolbox that you tend to avoid at all costs. What happens when you are forced to use them?

The truth is, even though you should do what you do well often, there will be many occasions when the use of other tools will be necessary. It's best to address the skills you're uncomfortable with now so that there is a foundation for their use when the time arises. Now is the best time – before the year gets too far along. Start by asking: What don't I do well? A variation of that question may be: What do I avoid doing? Examples of common weak areas or activities include public speaking, writing or even mathematical computation. Remember, these are the skills we have that we haven't fully mastered. It's not that we lack sufficient training in them; they just aren't necessarily our forte. For example, it's rare to find someone who enjoys cold calling. However, most will say that it's part of the job, and there are ways to use your talents to make it more successful.

Identify what you'll need

Make a written list of your weak areas. And before taking the next step, ask a trusted adviser to review the list and tell you if he or she thinks you are being too critical, or conversely, not critical enough. Adjust your list accordingly.

Once identified, organize the list by prioritizing the skills you will likely have to use in merchant sales, and set aside those you will likely never use. For example, you may be expected to speak in front of a group, but I doubt you will have to deliver your speech in a foreign language.

Embrace opportunities

Start with the first item on your list and identify one thing you can do that will help you use that tool effectively when necessary. When thinking about this step, I was reminded of an occasion several years ago involving a sales rep I had trained. She had a strong fear of public speaking. She invariably froze up and was unable to say a word when called upon to make a speech. Yet she had been asked to speak at an association meeting, which was a great opportunity.

She told me she would probably pass on the invitation. She knew it was a chance to open new doors in her career, but she just couldn't get over the fear that she would mess up and end up wasting the opportunity.

Ultimately, I convinced her to give it a shot because she was going to lose the opportunity anyway if she didn't agree to speak at the meeting. We then spent the weeks before the event devising a strategy so she could overcome her fear. No, she didn't picture the crowd naked (as is often suggested to folks who are intimidated by public speaking). Instead, she played with that advice and found ways to make the audience laugh.

Fearing that if she looked up from her script she might freeze, she knew her first sentence was critical to both helping her relax and setting the mood. Here's what we came up with, "So, many of you know that I have a fear of public speaking. I tend to freeze up. I've been told that there is a trick to overcoming this fear that involves one's wardrobe. So, I will pause now as all of you remove your clothing. Oh wait, I don't think that is how it's done."

When the audience laughed, she relaxed. She didn't raise her head until she was three or four paragraphs into her speech, but by that time, the audience was open to listening to her and she was more comfortable with them. Of course, we kept her script on the shorter side, but there was a longer than normal Q and A period that she handled beautifully.

Leave your comfort zone

So the moral of my story is that if public speaking is a fear, make them laugh and keep it short. If you have difficulty writing, find a good proofreader, but still generate a newsletter. You may be one who likes to have the answer to every question. As a result, sometimes the answers you provide may not be 100 percent accurate. If this is the case, practice saying: I think I know the answer, but let me confirm and get back to you. Again, if you get stumped, ask your trusted adviser for ideas on how to address these situations. The key is to leverage what you do well while being forced to do what you don't do well.

Remember, even though these are tools that you won't commonly use and are not necessarily mandatory for your success, they could cause you to lose business if you don't use them when necessary. Don't invest hours or weeks on training courses on how to speak in public or learn about products you rarely, if ever, use.

Instead, tackle the situation when the need arises, and you won't find yourself freezing up. You'll be able to overcome the challenge gracefully and move back into your comfort zone. end of article

Jeff Fortney is Vice President, ISO Channel Management with Clearent LLC. He has more than 17 years' experience in the payments industry. Contact him at jeff@clearent.com or 972-618-7340. To learn about how Clearent can help you grow faster and go further, visit www.clearent.com.

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